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Cluster explores invisible space

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Cluster spacecraft
Artist's impression of the four Cluster spacecraft flying in formation.
Credits: ESA
Effect of extreme solar activity on Earth's magnetosphere
Scientists have found that extreme solar activity drastically compresses the magnetosphere and modifies the composition of ions in the near-Earth environment. They are now challenged to model how these changes affect orbiting satellites, including the GPS system.

Under normal solar conditions, satellites orbit within the magnetosphere — the protective magnetic bubble carved out by Earth’s magnetic field. But when solar activity increases, the picture changes significantly: the magnetosphere gets compressed and particles get energized, exposing satellites to higher doses of radiation that can perturb signal reception. This is why monitoring and forecasting its impact on near-Earth space is becoming increasingly critical to safeguard daily life on Earth. One way to do this is by studying the physics of near-Earth space and observing the impact of such activity in time.
Credits: NASA/ ESA
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